In her monthly column The Moon in Full, Nina MacLaughlin illuminates humanity’s long-standing lunar fascination. Each installment is published in advance of the full moon.
Summer is dead. The last flames of its cremation heat the leaves across New England where I live. The rest of the fire-stained leaves will fall, ashy on the forest floors, ashy on the sidewalks. This is how ghosts speak, the sound of ashy leaves blown by wind or shuffled by feet, and October is when they speak the loudest. Ghosts are white in the imagination, pale blurs, small fogs of body. The moon is also white, but no one thinks it a ghost.
For this haunted moment of the year: the Hunter’s Moon. Bare trees, bare fields—all the better, by moonlight, to spot the prey, take aim, drain blood, skin, sever limb from joint, and slice flesh to store for the cold months ahead. Me, I go to the grocery store; my meat has its skin peeled off before I bring it home. Have you sliced the throat of a mammal? Snapped the neck of a fowl? Put a bullet through the soft parts to stop the light in the eyes of a creature who leaps or flies? Do you know what it is to crouch in brush and wait, hoping the wind does not carry your human scent to the nostrils of whatever beast you’re trying to catch? I don’t. But something stirs in the blood this time of year regardless. Maybe you feel it, too. Maybe you’re able to detect things that normally elude our dulled and faulty senses. As if all of a sudden noses become more alert. May and June have their blooms, the dewy grassy floral scent of spring. Late fall smells earthier: mulch, ash, the turpentine tang of decay, worm chew, slowing sap, flinty night. Read More